Technology is here to stay.
Many of us rely on it for everything from our daily schedule to checking in with relatives overseas to finding a recipe we need for tonight’s dinner (or finding a menu to order-in.)
So how do we balance the use of our devices with our parenting? That requires taking time to consider what is really important, and then how we will put those ideas into practice.
It is not surprising that many parents would put their child’s health and development high on their list of priorities—but what they may not realize is the way technology interferes with this. Infants and young children need eye-to-eye contact. According to Catherine Steiner-Adair, in her book The Big Disconnect,
‘The mirroring exchange that occurs when we return our baby’s gaze or giggle allows us to communicate wordlessly… if that connection is stable, steady and supportive, baby and parent form a ‘secure attachment.’ When those qualities are weak or missing, the attachment may be compromised. ..Studies show that [babies] are especially distressed by a mother’s ‘flat’ or emotionless expression…adopted when we stare down to text or into a screen as we go online.’
As children reach age six or seven, parents’ distraction with technology is leading kids to misbehave for attention. A parent recently asked us, ‘Can you believe that my child is throwing things at me to get me off the phone?’ Yes. We can believe it. It may be that the child has learned that throwing things is the easiest way to get Mom or Dad off the device.
So…what can we do about this? It is simple really. Decide when you will be on your devices and when you will put them down—out of reach. Then, do it!
Is the person on the other end of the device that much more important than your child? Children do not need to be the one-and-only thing in our lives—we just need to be clear that when we are with our kids (spending time cooking, playing, walking or hanging out,) that we are with them. When we are working or communicating with others, we aren’t pretending to be present with our kids. The bottom line is: no matter how good a parent thinks they can fake their presence and attention, kids just don’t buy it.
Image of child with phone from Shutterstock.
Back to school means back to a routine. That shouldn’t be code for ‘back to chaos’. Take the time now, while things are still a bit laid back, to clearly define what you need from the kids as they head back to school. Check out these 5 steps to guide your way.
Work with your kids to write down the order of the morning routine:
Once this is written down (use pictures for little kids), your child can now tell you what needs to happen in the morning without having to read your mind. Rather than bossing your kids around, you can ask, ‘What needs to happen now? What’s next on your list?’
Put your children’s schedule on a calendar so that they can see the time they have for fun, scheduled activities, homework and chores. When it is written down, it is concrete and easier to understand. This gets rid of the ‘There’s not enough time’ panic.
Your kids also need enough time for sleep. If they wake up at 6:30 or 7 am, they need to be getting to sleep (not just starting bedtime routine) ten to twelve hours prior to that depending on their age. Check sleep needs here.
Kids need to know that they have a purpose and responsibility in the family. Maybe this is the year that they pack their own lunch for school. Will that happen the night before or will it be added to the morning routine? If they aren’t ready to make lunch, they can certainly clean out their lunch boxes and pack their own back packs.
Take time this month to clearly define your child’s chores, and then to teach the chore by doing it with the child and then allowing the child to do it more independently. Be sure to explain at what time and what day the chores need to happen and hold your child accountable for this. This teaches them that you mean what you say.
If you don’t know what you expect, how can your kids? Take some time to clearly define what you want, then you can let them in on the secret and the family unit will run more smoothly.
Back to school doesn’t have to mean back to chaos. Have a plan, make sure everyone knows it, and follow through for a seamless transition back to school.
Image of back to school from Shutterstock.